The Middle East Quartet report came out with three major issues being raised:
While the majority of people on both sides and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas express their support for the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, the Quartet remains seriously concerned that continuing on the current course will make this prospect increasingly remote. In particular, each of the following trends is severely undermining hopes for peace:So, how did this report, which took several months to research and compile, substantiate its claim that "the continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion" and "designation of land for exclusive Israeli use" is" steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution"?
Continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence are greatly exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful resolution;
The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution; and
The illicit arms build-up and militant activity, continuing absence of Palestinian unity, and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.
The Quartet stresses the urgent need for affirmative steps to reverse each of these trends in order to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.
The process of designating additional “state land” in Area C, which potentially impacts any land that cannot clearly be established as Palestinian private property, is ongoing. In March of 2016, over 2,000 dunams south of Jericho were declared state land, and in August 2014, nearly 4,000 dunams west of Bethlehem were declared state land.These are the only examples that the report gives of Israel taking land. It mentions a larger population of Jews living in the area, and it says that some expansions of existing settlements have been retroactively legalized, but it gives no more information in the actual number of dunams or hectares or square kilometers that Israel has taken in recent years that were not already under Israeli ownership.
In any peace plan the major settlement blocs will remain in Israel, so the number of people who live in settlements are nearly irrelevant - they can cram two million more and it does not affect the prospects of peace in the least. The only relevant number is the amount of land that Israel is supposedly taking, and whether that is irrevocable.
The only concrete numbers given by the Quartet is nearly 6000 dunams declared state land over the past three years. Compared to the size of the West Bank areas not under Israeli control, at that rate it would take well over 2000 years for Israel to take over the entire West Bank.
To put it another way, B'Tselem said in 2013:
In Area C, which is under full Israeli control, there are currently 120,000 hectares of state land, comprising about 36.5% of Area C (21% of the West Bank). About 20,000 more hectares of state land are located in Areas A and B, where the PA control building and planning.A hectare is ten dunams, so in the three years since then Israel has increased the number of hectares of state land from 140,000 to 140,600, an increase 0.4% compared to how much land Israel controlled beforehand.
There is virtually no difference between the amount of land Israel controls today and the amount it controlled during the negotiations with the PLO in 2000. If a two-state solution was possible then, there is little that makes it any more difficult today.
In short, Israeli actions in recent decades, despite the huge amount of media attention, are not a realistic threat in any way to the two-state solution. The Quartet, parroting Palestinian claims, tries hard to find numbers to back up the claim of irrevocable annexation that has become conventional wisdom, but they can't. That's why they resort to population claims, where things sound dire, but it is simply anti-Israel propaganda.
The fact is that if Israel had a realistic peace partner, one that was willing to accept compromise and that doesn't incite its population to violence and celebrate terror attacks on TV and in schools, there would be no issue and we would have peace.
Israel has made it clear, multiple times, that it is willing to make concessions for peace. The Palestinian side has said the opposite, instead bragging about sticking to its principles of "return" and the release of terrorists from prison and Jerusalem, a city that has never been under control of local Arabs, ever.
The solution is in pressuring the Palestinians to make real concessions. If they would do that, Israelis would happily meet them more than halfway.
The reason that there is no peace is that the Palestinian side has made very clear that they have no interest in peace with a Jewish state, and the international community needs to wake up and start to place the pressure where it belongs.
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